Retro Studios Outlines "Symbiotic Relationship" With Nintendo Teams
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
"We spent a lot of time working on fur as requested by Iwata-san"
With Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze swinging into Western stores this week, eager fans are no doubt continuing their own personal countdowns. Ahead of the release Official Nintendo Magazine has published its interview with Retro Studios CEO Michael Kelbaugh and Nintendo SPD producer Kensuke Tanabe.
When asked about whether any shortcomings or issues with Donkey Kong Country Returns were tackled in the new Wii U entry, for example, the response focused on refinements and tweaks, while re-emphasizing the fact that Nintendo President Satoru Iwata was particularly keen to see realistic HD fur...
Kelbaugh: I can't say there were problems, however there were refinements made in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze that weren't in Donkey Kong Country Returns. For example, we spent a lot of time working on fur as requested by Iwata-san. The end result was gorgeous fur used that we used all over the game. You'll notice it on Donkey Kong of course. We spent a lot of time and resources on increasing animation quality; you'll notice that in even the smallest of characters, trees, grass and FX. We also added David Wise, the original Donkey Kong Country composer, to our composition efforts. This, combined with Kenji Yamamoto and Scott Petersen, lent itself to a simply amazing soundtrack and special effects effort.
Tanabe: I heard many users saying that Donkey Kong Country Returns was fun, but hard. We did anticipate such opinions because we purposefully kept the difficulty of Donkey Kong Country Returns as high as in the old Donkey Kong Country games. What we didn't expect was that not many players would want to use the Super Guide, which we had created as an option for people having trouble with the game. We learned that players want to clear levels by themselves in the end. Given this experience, we decided to add some features that mean even casual players will be able to complete the whole game. But this doesn't mean that the difficulty of the game has been lowered at all.
A segment that may be of particular interest for fans of the Texas-based studio considers the working relationship between Retro Studios and various groups within Nintendo in Japan. It's explained that Retro works on multiple projects with multiple teams at Nintendo, with Tanabe-san going on to describe the U.S. studio as part of the "Nintendo family".
Kelbaugh: To answer your question more directly, it really depends on the franchise we work with. Every Nintendo character/franchise has a creator and depending on which franchise we work with, it's likely we would in some manner work with that creator. That being said, Tanabe-san and his team at SPD are our primary contacts at Nintendo and collaborative team members. Please let me be clear, games developed at Retro Studios are a collaboration between members from Retro Studios, SPD and various other entities throughout the Nintendo family. It's a symbiotic relationship that consists of members from all over the world; we are very honoured to be working with such a talented team.
When we worked on Mario Kart 7, we were working on Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze at the same time. Part of the team was working on creating assets for Hideki Konno's group, the Mario Kart team, and part of our team continued making progress on Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze in conjunction with Tanabe-san and SPD.
We're very proud to be a Nintendo studio working on Nintendo games.
Tanabe: We consider Retro as part of [the] Nintendo family and a very capable game development studio. As a Nintendo development team, they will keep working with not only SPD, but also with the development teams in Kyoto. They might even work on a title that Miyamoto-san leads directly in the future. However, the SPD team assigned to Retro is working together with them as a single team and I hope it will continue this way. (On Mario Kart 7, for example, SPD staff were involved as co-ordinators.) I am saying this because a very interesting and stimulating chemical reaction occurs when the two parties from different languages and cultures are united under Nintendo's game production philosophy, and that chemical reaction results in extraordinary ideas.
Are you excited about this week's arrival of Tropical Freeze and that HD fur? On a more serious note, does it encourage you to read of Retro Studio's major ongoing role and collaboration with multiple teams within Nintendo? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.